Managing land and water use together: nomadic herdsmen and farmers in Niger
In the Sahelian country of Niger, the rural population comprises of sedentary farmers and nomadic herdsmen. During the dry season, the nomads used to travel several hundred kilometers with their herds from the northern region to the farming areas in the south, where their cattle could graze on the harvested fields. With the onset of the rainy season, the herdsmen would then head back so that the farmers could cultivate their land again. However, recurrent droughts and a rapidly growing population have caused these once complementary systems to increasingly come into conflict. Due to the mounting pressure on natural resources, farmers no longer keep cattle routes clear and have started using land that was previously reserved as a grazing area for the livestock. As a result, the herdsmen feel compelled to drive their cattle over the arable land.
In 1993, the government of Niger passed the Rural Code to prevent land conflicts between the different groups. It is a framework law that regulates land use rights for the local rural population and, at the same time, secures space for livestock farming. In the beginning, implementation was slow but in recent years it has gained momentum: The establishment of land commissions at all administrative levels, an essential element of the law, has today become an important instrument for jointly managing and administering land and water use by involving all parties concerned. The commissions, which are comprised of representatives from government as well as the different user groups, certify land use rights, control the legitimate use of resources and mediate in the case of land conflicts. This has ensured legal certainty for the rural population.